Relatively speaking, 9/11 had a very small impact on my life. As a small-town Midwestern girl with mostly local connections, I didn't know anyone in NY, or even on the east coast. Unlike so many others, the attacks didn't claim anyone I knew. But the emotional shock of such violence on our country touched me as much as anyone.
On September 11th, 2001, I was twenty-one years old and a junior at Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska. I was living just off campus in a little basement studio apartment. I got up as usual at about 7 am to get ready for my 9:30 class. I didn't have cable so I turned on my radio, just like I did every Tuesday morning. It took me a minute to catch what was going on. One of the towers of the World Trade Center in NY was on fire...I don't think they even knew at that point what had happened. I was stunned. Within a couple of minutes after turning on my radio and trying to make head & tails out of what had happened...the radio voices reported that a plane was headed into the other building. The shock was palpible. It was surreal.
I think my mom called soon after that to see if I knew what was going on. I hung on the radio news until class time. At 9:30 I went to class not sure what to expect. This was clearly not going to be a normal day. At class we spent a chunk of time discussing what we'd heard and seen. I think it was at this time that I learned of the attack on the Pentagon. The general feelings were that of stunned confusion. Everyone just trying to process what was going on. There were rumors that all flights in the entire country were being shut down. It was all just so unbelievable. This was far beyond the scope of anything we'd ever lived through. We all knew we were living through one of the most life altering events in modern American history. We didn't have any regular lectures that day. And class was cut short and we were allowed to go home. As I headed to work at the campus bookstore that afternoon I still hadn't seen any of the video footage of the towers. We had tv's mounted in the store so I got small glimpses of the coverage while stocking shelves and processing packages for shipping but the volume was kept down and I was kept busy so I really didn't get to keep up on what all was going on.
That evening a large group of students (including myself) met around the campus clock tower to mourn, pray & process that morning's events. I don't know who set up the event and I don't know even exactly what happened during that time. The thing I do remember is all of us holding hands in a large circle around the clock tower, united with tears running down our cheeks. Its funny how the details have been lost with time...I don't remember if some prayed allowed, if we sang, or if we all just stood in silence but I remember very clearly how I was struck with how different we all were and how this tragedy had united us and brought the most unlikely people to speak of God. How humble and vulnerable we all felt. And how the Holy Spirit seemed closer than ever as we wept in united grief over the Evil that had become so apparent in the last 24 hours.
I remember it was dark as I walked across campus after the meeting lost in my thoughts. I didn't go straight home. I stopped first for a few minutes at my boyfriend's house chatting about the significance of the day and the unity it seemed to create.
It wasn't until the next day, while making beds at the Super8, that I really got to watch the video footage of the smoking towers, of the second plane making contact, of the collapses, & debris all over the streets of New York. Images are indeed worth a thousand words and all the talk of it did nothing to soften the blow of the images. I hated it and yet I couldn't stop watching. It just didn't seem real. It was like something from a movie. I couldn't imagine what it must be like for the people living in New York City.
As with any tragedy that is "far off" even as the news unfolded and the search for bodies wore on for weeks, and details of the suspected parties were revealed...the raw emotions wore off quickly and life in the middle of the country pretty much got back to normal. But 9/11 changed how we saw the world and changed how we functioned as a country.
Here we are 10 years later...forever changed.
And yet while banners are imploring us to "always remember", in so many ways have already forgotten.
We have forgotten the shock;
we have forgotten the vulnerablility;
we have forgotten the unity.
As a people we have forgotten 9/11 in the most important ways.
We all remember where were were, who we were with and what we did on September 11, 2001. But we have forgotten the spirit of that day.
Unity of love and humbleness before our God.
"You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.
But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ;
rather, serve one another humbly in love."